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Looking Out: Maryland youth HIV prevention summit scheduled

At the end of 2012, there were 29,477 people in Maryland diagnosed and living with HIV or AIDS.

Of those, 1,424 -- or just shy of 5 percent -- were between the ages of 13 and 24, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In an effort to raise awareness of those statistics, the department's Prevention and Health Promotion Administration has teamed up with other advocacy organizations to host a "Youth Sexual Health - HIV Prevention Summit" next week.

“The health and well-being of all Marylanders, including young people who are at risk for HIV and AIDS, must be protected,” said Michelle Spencer, PHPA director, in a statement. “We encourage adolescents to begin talking about HIV prevention, to get tested for HIV and to seek treatment if they have the virus.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men "are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States," and black gay and bisexual men "bear a disproportionate burden" of HIV.

"In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all gay and bisexual men," according to the CDC website.

From 2008 to 2010, HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men increased by 20 percent, the CDC found.

The summit -- organized by DHMH, the Baltimore Health Department, the Family League of Baltimore and The After-School Institute -- targets youth, peer educators, caregivers and staff of youth programs, the organizers said.

Attendees will participate in youth panels and workshops, and have access to informational exhibits and health counseling. They will also be encouraged to get tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, officials said.

The goal is to allow youth to network and learn best practices in HIV and STI prevention, officials said.

The conference is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Radisson at Cross Keys, at 5100 Falls Road. It is free, but those interested in attending must register by calling 410-580-0750 or by emailing Andrea Tillery at atillery@afterschoolinstitute.org.

Elsewhere in LGBT news:

- The Washington Blade's Michael K. Lavers has a long piece on the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary in Maryland, with candidate Attorney General Doug Gansler throwing out some barbs. All three of the candidates -- Gansler, Lt. Gov Anthony Brown and Del. Heather Mizeur, who is a lesbian -- are courting LGBT votes.

- In case you missed it, President Barack Obama said this week he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

- Have you heard of gay British soul singer Sam Smith? Of course you have. Anyway, he made a splash at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday, the same day his debut album, "In the Lonely Hour," was released. In the New York Times review, Smith's voice is described as "sniper precise, museum quality." The reviewer for Out Magazine said Smith was so intimately engaging with the audience that by the end of the show, he'd been "charmed nearly to the point of picking out wedding china."

What do you think of Smith?

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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